Why Not?: How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small

Nalebuff, Barry

Robert F. Kennedy challenged us to "dream of things that never were and say, Why not?" Why Not? is a primer for fresh business thinking, for problem solving with a purpose, for bringing the world a few steps closer to the way it should be. Idealistic? Yes. Unrealistic? No. Authors Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres have spent their careers asking questions, solving problems, and bringing fresh ideas to market-from insurance that protects against a decline in your home's value to Honest Tea, bottled iced tea that actually tastes like tea. Illustrated with examples from every aspect of life, this book offers simple techniques for generating ingenious solutions to existing problems, and for applying existing solutions to new problems. In the spirit of Edward de Bono's Lateral Thinking, Why Not?will help you take the things we all see, every day, and think about them in a new way. Why not have telemarketers pay you for your time when they call? Why not sell a mortgage that automatically refinances when interest rates drop? Why not organize a "buycott" rather than a boycott? Why Not? will provoke you into finding new business opportunities using everyday ingenuity. Great ideas are waiting. Why not be the one to discover them? Staff Favorite of 2003 Why not require telemarketers to pay for your time? Why not sell pay-per-mile auto insurance? Why not offer season tickets to local movie theaters? And, most important, why even bother trying to resist the charming brilliance of this delightful guide to innovative thinking? With its enthusiasm, panache, and creative energy, Why Not? is the closest thing we have to a user's guide for the human brain. Editorial Reviews CIO Insight The words 'fun' and 'business book' rarely go together. But this book...is the exception. --October 2003 The Boston Globe "Authors Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres have produced an engaging - dare we say innovative? - guide to stoking creativity." --October 19, 2003 Kiplinger's Personal Finance Golden book of bright ideas! New York Times Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres toss out so many ideas...that it makes you dizzy. And makes you think too. --August 10, 2003 Harvard Business Review [T]he authors...offer sensible advice for implementing ideas in a competitive marketplace. --October 2003 Soundview Executive Book Summaries Everyday Ingenuity and Better Problem Solving Big innovations are not the sole domain of experts and high-tech breakthroughs. On the contrary, the authors of Why Not? write, innovation is a skill that can be taught to just about anyone, and the potential for innovation surrounds us all. Yale Economics Professor Barry Nalebuff and Yale Law Professor Ian Ayres explain that their combination of business and law backgrounds gives them the right tools for both generating and testing new ideas. Together, they explore innovation using the insights of economics, game theory, contracts, and the law of unintended consequences as tools to find innovative solutions to big and small problems. Why Not? not only looks back at many great innovations that have solved business problems in the past, but also provides the groundwork for developing new ideas for the future. It also makes a few predictions for how present problems might eventually be solved. By exploring many untrodden territories, the authors demonstrate the process of innovation generation in terms that can be understood and acted upon by anyone willing to try something new. Nattering Negative Nabobs Instead of offering a book that is overflowing with brain teasers and hypothetical situations, the authors present numerous practical problems from the real worlds of business and government to show how useful innovations have been and can be created. Addressing common concerns, such as e-mail spam, unwanted telemarketing calls, waiting in line, and multitudes of other daily hassles and dilemmas, the authors turn their attention to saving time and money to show others how they can improve their lives by addressing problems with innovative new ideas. To teach readers simpler ways for finding solutions, the authors present a problems-in-search-of-solutions methodology. With it, they hope to create an attitude and a mind-set in their readers that will help them see potential solutions everywhere they look. The authors start their book by providing a few examples of great innovators who were able to turn simple ideas into major accomplishments in their fields. They describe how Ben Franklin was able to refine everyday thinking into great inventions that include the library step stool, the odometer (to measure postal routes), bifocal glasses, fire insurance, and the Franklin stove. He even proposed daylight savings time. Wayne Gretzky is also touted as an example of an innovator who took ice hockey to new levels with a new form of offense that capitalized on creating blind spots. By originating a strategy that includes skating behind the opponent's goal, he created a new play that helped him and his teammates score. The authors explain that innovations like these could have been implemented long before they were introduced, but needed an empowered champion to bring them to light. In an optimistic argument against complacency, the authors present several ways anyone can create a new innovation. One of the first techniques they offer is looking at the unusual solutions others have employed elsewhere, and asking where else they could work. To counter those they call "the nattering nabobs of negativism," they explain how good ideas should not be automatically discounted because they have not been tried before. Thinking Outside the Box The authors describe how organizations should and should not capitalize on various types of business innovations. They argue that there is often a simple, recurrent structure to thinking outside the box, and write that most original ideas are the result of two basic methods for generating ideas: problems in search of solutions and solutions in search of problems. The authors present a framework for finding new ideas using four distinct problem-solving tools that are motivated by these four questions:

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